It’s ready in minutes and oh so easy.
Cake batter
Credit: Getty / Dean Mitchell

There is no better way to celebrate spring than with a brunch. But brunches can be complicated when it comes to sweets. Do you lean in on breakfasty treats like sweet danishes or coffee cakes, or bring in more midday desserts like cupcakes or custards? For me, I like a bake that straddles the line. A snacking-style frosting-free beauty topped with fruit that is a great finale for brunch but can also be a terrific pairing for your coffee break or fancied up at dinnertime with a scoop of ice cream.

The best part? I start with a boxed cake mix.

Sure, you can make a cake from scratch, but to be honest, boxed cake mix is one of those pantry staples that I turn to again and again when the spirit wants homemade, but life prevents me from having time or mental capacity for kitchen frippery.

Second best part? It isn't really a recipe so much as it is an assembly project. You are just adding some bonuses to the standard cake, which means you can literally follow the directions on the box and then improv your toppings.

How to turn boxed cake mix into spring brunch dessert

Start with a yellow or vanilla or spice cake mix for this dessert—white is too delicate, and chocolate overpowers the fruit. Prepare the batter according to package directions and pour into a greased 9x13 baking pan. 

Now, here's where the magic happens. Dot the top of your cake with whole raspberries, blackberries, or blueberries; or halved strawberries or cherries. If peaches or plums are in season, cut into thin wedges or small cubes and use those. Use one fruit or mix and match: Peach and blackberries are great together, as are mixed berries. Use between 1-1 ½ cups of fruit for this: You want little pockets of fruit, not a solid layer.

If you like a bit of crunch, sprinkle some sliced or slivered almonds over the fruit. Add a generous sprinkle of about 2 tablespoons of coarse raw sugar over the whole top. Then bake according to package instructions until a skewer in a fruit-free part of the cake comes out clean. Let cool completely then dust with powdered sugar.

If you want some added gilding, drizzle a glaze made with confectioners' sugar and either lemon juice or buttermilk. To make the glaze, just add the liquid slowly until you get the consistency you like.

For brunch I serve with either plain whipped cream or I add some light brown sugar to either crème fraiche or sour cream to sweeten it lightly and dollop that on. For evening desserts, I pair with a scoop of ice cream, gelato, or sorbet.